The Domino Theory 2.0: Ukraine Then Taiwan?

In yet another example of “how the more things change…”

When assessing the Domino Theory 2.0, one discovers the dominoes are in the details—or, more accurately, the lack of them.

The first incarnation of the “Domino Theory” argued that the triumph of communism in one nation would invariably lead to communism’s triumph in neighboring nations. Based on the rapid Sovietization and illegal occupations of eastern Europe in the aftermath of World War II, the Domino Theory predicted the same result would occur elsewhere. Unfortunately, the theory was less of a strategic assessment than it was a myopic prism, coloring every incident abroad as proof of its predetermined conclusion and justifying its efforts to stanch communism’s advance by any means fair or foul, including the deployment of the American military. So doing, the Domino Theory proved a blunt and, ultimately, deleterious instrument for stemming the advance of that hideous, anti-human ideology.

For Americans, the Vietnam War painfully revealed the counterproductive consequences of this overly simplistic theory. Between 1965 and 1973, more than 58,000 American service personnel, 250,000 South Vietnamese troops, 1.1 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters, and close to 2 million civilians of North and South Vietnam were killed, and more than $120 billion of U.S. tax dollars were expended on the war effort. At home, Americans were torn along political and generational lines over the draft and the war; youth was radicalized; and disillusionment with and alienation from representative institutions increased throughout the citizenry. When America ultimately failed to stem North Vietnam’s conquest of South Vietnam, the ensuing decade witnessed communism’s advance around the globe. At home, many of the political divisions spawned by the Vietnam War never fully healed.

Importantly, this was during a time when the Soviet Union and its proxies were in fact bent upon expanding communism across the globe, and most Americans understood this. Nevertheless, the failure to explain the rationale for the Vietnam War to the satisfaction of Americans, especially the young men being drafted and their parents, constituted the sifting quicksand that finally engulfed America’s war effort, especially when the government’s official statements continually failed to match the reality on the ground and the war dragged on.

In the aftermath of Vietnam, policymakers did learn the hard lessons of America’s military defeat. Communism remained an existential threat to free peoples, one the Soviets continued to spread. But America and her allies gradually became more attuned to the specific conditions within a communist endangered country, and, given the American public’s chary post-Vietnam attitude toward military interventions, became more circumspect in their assessments and responses to such threats. With fits and starts, wins and losses, by 1991, this more circumspect view of how to defeat communism through a more deliberative and discerning, holistic roll-back strategy facilitated the liberation of eastern Europe from communism and the Soviet Union’s implosion.

Failure might be an orphan, but it is a better teacher than success. While making room to stuff the Soviet Union in history’s trash can, policymakers retrieved from it the garbage theory, the “End of History.” In sum, Francis Fukuyama’s “end” was the absence of an ideological opponent to western democratic capitalism, which allegedly had forever won the hearts and minds of all peoples. It seems Mr. Fukuyama didn’t consult the over 70,000,000 members of the Chinese Communist Party (or radical Islamists, for that matter).

In the heady, heedless days following the demise of the Soviet Union, the botched, venal western “shock therapy” approach to Russian reconstruction led to the rise of an authoritarian regime headed by former KGB Lt. Colonel Vladimir Putin, a foreign intelligence officer. Due to western recklessness and covetousness, democracy and capitalism had an abysmal trial run in post-Soviet Russia. The people came to view the “end of history” as a dead end for Russia. With selective nostalgia coloring their memories, they reached back out for the iron hand of a strong leader (if not a Stalin, then an Ivan the Terrible) and a Russia that was feared and respected throughout the world. Mr. Putin and his thuggish ex-KGB cronies (Siloviki) readily obliged. The result is a revanchist, neo-imperial Russia currently on display in Ukraine.

Further, in the wake of the CCP’s barbaric butchering of pro-democracy protestors in Tiananmen Square, a similar response threw this hideous regime a lifeline: no amount of mass slaughter would stop western capitalists from enriching themselves in communist China. Throughout the ensuing years, policymakers and the elites have enriched themselves by, among other means, outsourcing American jobs to and investing in communist China, thereby making the regime both more secure and more potent as they engaged in unrestricted warfare against the United States. And a nation that, during Mao’s great famine, was still exporting wheat from the hands of starving peasants to ensure the communist regime had enough foreign reserves to advance the nation’s aims throughout the world, now holds over $850 billion of American debt. No doubt, Xi Jinping and his politburo pals will continue putting their current foreign reserves and their holding of the U.S. debt to effective, if not good, use against America.

In sum, today, policymakers and elites have now stuck the rest of us with the butcher’s bill for their arrogance and avarice: a revanchist, authoritarian Russia and an avowedly hostile, implacably aggressive communist China, both of which view the United States as their primary enemy.

This is the situation as American and other western policymakers tender their dire demands for taxpayer funding for Ukraine. For some abstruse reason, they expect the public to forget or ignore that these policymakers and their corporate cronies have been culpable for causing this crisis. These policymakers have forgotten the hard lessons of Vietnam, and in refusing to explain in detail the strategic stakes in defending Ukraine from Russia’s invasion, they have resorted to the Domino Theory 2.0.

Consider this February 12 tweet by Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.), in which he cites an earlier statement by Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.): “Speaker Johnson is right: ‘We can’t allow Vladimir Putin to prevail in Ukraine because I don’t believe it would stop there. It would probably encourage and empower China to perhaps make a move on Taiwan.’”

And there it is. The assumption that an authoritarian victory will lead to another authoritarian’s invasion of another country.

Sure, the Speaker hedged with “probably.” Moreover, Senator Cornyn was citing an October 27, 2023, interview with the Speaker, wherein he, Johnson, also stated: “We’re not going to abandon them, but we have a responsibility, a stewardship responsibility, over the precious treasure of the American people, and we have to make sure that the White House is providing the people with some accountability for the dollars.” Oddly, the Speaker also hedged by adding “some accountability.”

Yet, this merely reinforces the point. The Speaker felt compelled to regurgitate the Dominio Theory 2.0. His admission that there needs to be “some accountability” underscores the absence of accountability to the American public regarding military aid to Ukraine’s. Excepting the rote invocation of the “Taiwan must be defended” mantra, it also unwittingly reveals policymakers’ almost zero discourse with the American people as to why a free Taiwan is an imperative in protecting our nation’s vital strategic interests. Instead, the public gets the Domino Theory 2.0.

It is beyond the purpose of this essay to delve into how the current efforts to aid the defense of Ukraine may or may not have already indicated to the CCP the probability of successfully subjugating Taiwan. What is obvious, however, is that despite Americans’ disapprobation for Mr. Putin and his regime, the continued funding for Ukraine’s defense is increasingly precarious, as public support is ebbing over time (due in no small part to the absence of “some accountability”).

Now consider this in light of what the Domino Theory 2.0’s proponent’s believe is the “hammer” in their argument for more Ukraine spending: the long-threatened communist Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

As the Vietnam War intensified, one of the arguments of anti-war protestors was that our kids were being sent to die in a country most Americans couldn’t find on a map. A terse expression of how policymakers had failed to adequately explain how America’s vital national security interests were involved, it was an inarguable indictment of the original Domino Theory. But it is important to note that the Domino Theory was initially sufficient for the American public to accept our nation’s involvement in Vietnam. Why?

Due to the Sovietization of eastern Europe, the communist capture of China, and the United States’ subsequent, excruciating experience in the Korean War (or maybe because of the sacrifices entailed to keep South Korea free), the American public recognized communism was an existential threat to our nation and allies. Engendering and perpetuating this recognition constituted a concerted national effort that endured over decades until America and her allies won the Cold War.

Today, this is decidedly not the case.

Feckless policymakers, in league with their rapacious corporate cronies and other greedy elitists, have divined a critical distinction between the defunct Soviet variant of the communist virus and that of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP): unlike the former Soviet Union, western elites can make a buck off the communist China.

But, you may ask, what about communist China’s “unrestricted warfare” against their primary enemy, the hegemonic United States? What about the communist regime’s repression of their own people, including the genocide of the Uighurs? How can American and western policymakers and their elitist cronies do business with a totalitarian government that is leveraging their own captive people as a “market” for western corporate investment? Or threatening to invade their neighboring free republic, Taiwan?

To keep their gravy train rolling requires the public to believe the policymakers’ and the elites false narrative that the communist Chinese regime is magically not in control of their totalitarian state. Somehow, despite all evidence and communist ideology to the contrary, communist China’s business sector (one cannot call it a “private sector”) is a sufficiently independent actor to ignore the regime’s aggressive domestic and global malevolence. In short, policymakers and elites need the American public to play “let’s pretend” along with them.

This deliberate downplaying of communist China’s aims promotes the willful misperception that there is a difference between the communist Chinese regime and its economy—one that is not recognized in that nation’s laws—and has not ended the American people’s distrust of the communist Chinese state. But it has had detrimental impact. While not spurring calls for peaceful coexistence or détente, it has negated a comprehensive estimation of the threat communist China’s unrestricted warfare poses to America’s vital strategic interests, as well as the measures required to protect and defend ourselves and our allies. Truly, then, it is odd how, in pushing the Domino Theory 2.0, policy makers and the elites are aiming to leverage a fear of communist China that they’ve spend decades trying to diminish.

This brings us face to face with the real Domino Theory of communism: namely, how the willful blindness to communist China’s avowed unrestricted warfare against our nation leads to the spread of the vile, murderous, anti-human ideology of communism at home and abroad.

For example, why should communist indoctrinators on campuses not be treated the same as Nazi indoctrinators? Why should an ideology responsible for killing more innocents than any other screed be considered acceptable in any quarter, let alone grow in popularity, especially among young Americans?

Why should Americans oppose the repressive communist Cuban regime, one that exports its hateful ideology and undermines free nations in Latin America, when the most populous and powerful communist nation in the world, China, despite being engaged in “unrestricted warfare” against the U.S., is being treated as a responsible international actor and business opportunity?

Equally, at a time when American elected officials are endangering national security by signing non-disclosure agreements with communist Chinese companies and, in the name of creating jobs their failed policies have precluded by any other means, are doling out billions in taxpayer dollars to them to locate in areas of America where it is all the better to engage in military and corporate espionage and other nefarious activities, why should the public respond to the Domino Theory 2.0’s concern for free Taiwan?

Indeed, while many policymakers, their elitist cronies, and the regime press pooh-pooh the public’s concerns about communist China buying American farmland, why would the public care about communist China invading Taiwan—let alone be prepared to risk World War III over it?

See how those dominoes fall when policymakers and their elitist cronies put money over country and sell our communist enemies the rope they will use to hang us?

Unless and until policymakers and their elitist cronies cease their remunerative apologies for the regime and commence defeating the existential threat of communist China’s unrestricted warfare, the Domino Theory 2.0 is a self-defeating piece of self-satire that merely serves to further disillusion and alienate Americans whose public support is needed to defend our republic and the entire free world.

In the end, of course, the question of whether the Domino Theory 2.0 works as the policymakers and the elites intend is a secondary consideration. The first consideration is to do what is comprehensively necessary as a nation to ensure that question never requires an answer.

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) served Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003-2012, and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars; and a Monday co-host of the “John Batchelor Radio Show,” among sundry media appearances.

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About Thaddeus G. McCotter

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003 to 2012 and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars, and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Show" among sundry media appearances.

Photo: Symbols flag of Russia, United States and the China on the chessboard. The concept of political game.